“Chocolate,”Lil said with the elation of contestant on ‘Take Your Pick’…
“It’s cause I didn’t eat enough chocolate. Your mother ate loads of it when she had you.”
Cherish by Yinka Sunmonu
This funny exchange takes place between Kike and her white foster mother Lil. Lil is trying to find a way to explain to Kike why she has black skin. We chose it as this month’s book quote because it is one of many endearing scenes in this book. It succinctly highlights a parent’s inventiveness in the face of a child’s question but also the heartbreak of a child’s confusion.
Cherish is about transracial fostering. It is a little known fact that this was a prevalent practice in post-1960s UK where black children were fostered into white families to allow their often academic student parents, the space and time to establish their new lives in Britain and pursue professional careers. These were usually private agreements advertised in newspapers, with the parents looking for a ‘Nanny’. When the child is to be returned it was with the hope that it is into a successful and loving family.
In Cherish we watch as Kike grows closer to her white working-class family. We get to enjoy their colourful language and all the foibles of a lively family trying to make ends meet. Clearly Kike is cared for, but we begin to see impact those years of separation have on her and the resulting contradictions in her identity. How can she integrate back into her family without the knowledge and awareness of her roots and cultural traditions? How does her family respond? Cherish evocatively explores these questions as we follow Kike’s path away from her family and back again. It is a truly fascinating story chronicling the emotional impact of this one aspect of British life.